Charlie D’Onigbinde is known as a bruising back, a guy who does the dirty work for McKee/Staten Island Tech.
But with time winding down in a tie game and the ball at the South Shore 26-yard line, the senior halfback was one of four receiving options for quarterback T.J. Ferranola.
“As long as we get the ball up in the air with no pressure on the quarterback, we’re going to have an opportunity to come down with the football because we have very good skill guys,” MSIT coach Anthony Cialdella said.
Ferranola fired the ball toward the end zone, a jump ball for a player who gets kidded because of what he said is his inability to get vertical.
D’Onigbinde miraculously came up with it despite a double team, running in for the winning score as time expired to lift McKee/Staten Island Tech to a thrilling 20-14 win against South Shore to capture a second straight PSAL Cup Division title Sunday at Lincoln HS.
“I just knew there was one play left,” D’Onigbinde said. “This is it. Either I catch it, or I drop it and we go to overtime and I really didn’t want to go to overtime with these guys. They’re a big, physical team and they would have given us a run for our money.”
It was D’Onigbinde’s fourth reception of the season. His previous long was 22 yards.
“Oh man, greatest feeling in the world right now,” Ferranola said. “I knew Charlie is a playmaker and that kid went up there and won us the game.”
The stout Shore Shore defense held D’Onigbinde and his teammates in check throughout much of the game. In fact, D’Onigbinde had negative-four yards rushing before the biggest catch of his life.
The Vikings sacked Ferranola four times, stopped the Seagulls three times inside the red zone and Joshua Atkins added an interception in the end zone.
“They were shutting us down, getting penetration each time, which was messing with the quarterback’s reads,” D’Onigbinde said. “We got through it, we made it and now we’ve won back-to-back championships.”
Emmanuel Johnson put top-seeded McKee/Staten Island Tech (11-0), which extended its winning streak to 17 games, in front 6-0 on a 1-yard TD plunge with 5:21 left in the first quarter.
But second-seeded South Shore (9-2) responded immediately, ending an 11-play, 67-yard drive with a 1-yard TD by quarterback Rayon Jeffrey, who added a 2-point conversion to put the Vikings in front, 8-6, with 28.8 seconds left in the first quarter.
South Shore maintained that lead until 2:30 left in the fourth when Ferranola (8-of-13 for 154 yards) connected with Phillip Ojo for a 29-yard touchdown on fourth down and found Johnson on the 2-point conversion to put MSIT in front, 14-8.
However, Jeffrey (19 carries, 89 yards) threw a 26-yard touchdown pass to Jhamel Cohen just 31 seconds later. Jeffrey was stopped on the 2-point conversion and the game was tied at 14 with 1:59 left.
It was the first time MSIT didn’t have a game locked up that late in the fourth quarter. In fact, the Seagulls cruised to a 32-8 victory against South Shore in Week 4.
“We never had our backs against the wall all year,” Cialdella said. “But we had our backs against the wall, came out and did what we had to do.”
What Ferranola had to do was execute a 10-play, 59-yard two-minute drive with precision, living a childhood dream by throwing the winning touchdown as time expired.
Ferranola will be back for another year, but D’Onigbinde ended his high-school career in style.
“I’m retiring,” he said. “I’m ending on that note.”
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